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Arun Jaitley: India's former finance minister dies



Arun Jaitley, who served as India's finance minister for five years until May 2019, passed away on Saturday in New Delhi. He was 66 years old.

Jaitley assumed command as the country's top economic representative in 2014 after Prime Minister Narendra Modi won an election promising to boost growth and create millions of jobs.

A lawyer once imprisoned for participating in student protests, the veteran politician was at the center of a firestorm when he implemented Modi's shock decision to ban 86% of Indian cash in November 2016.
The abrupt move sent shockwaves through India's $ 2 trillion economy. Growth in gross domestic product fell [6,659,005] in the six months after the ban from 7% to 6% as several sectors came to a standstill.
Jaitley repeatedly defended the move as essential to combating tax avoidance and promotion of digital payments ̵
1; a "turning point" that Indians would proudly look back on, even if the companies continued to struggle a year later.

"Whether the story will remember that Jaitley tried to record the pieces instead of causing the event itself is hard to say," said Pronab Sen, Country Manager for India at the International Growth Center and former Indian Expert chief statistics, said CNN Business.

Another groundbreaking reform took place in July 2017, when India revised its tax system. A new tax on goods and services replaced a complicated network of national and state taxes and created a single market in India for the first time since the independence of the vast country in 1947.
  Jaitley took control of the Indian economy in 2014.

"Ancient India was economically fragmented. The new India will create a tax, a market and for a nation, "Jaitley said when the reform was passed by parliament.

The tax was widely praised as the cornerstone of the Indian economy. The International Monetary Fund said it could ultimately contribute nearly two percentage points to Indian growth. However, many companies had difficulty adjusting and said the new system was too complicated. The government has made several changes over the past two years to further simplify them.

"The grand finale, of course, was the completion of [goods and services tax] I think that will be his true legacy," said Sen.

Jaitley's worsening health condition – he had a kidney transplant in May 2018 – forced him to leave Modi's second government a year later, shortly after the Indian leader won reelection due to a landslide.
"I want to stay away from any responsibility for some time in the future," Jaitley said in a letter to Modi. "That allows me to focus on my treatment and health."

Jaitley was a longtime member of Modi's right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). He was elected president of the University of Delhi in 1974 and represented the youth wing of the party. He was arrested the following year for protesting the state of emergency imposed by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and spent 19 months behind bars.

In a former BJP government, he served as Indian Minister of Law and Shipping in the early 2000s. In the first term of Modi, he briefly led the defense and business.

"I've lost a valued friend I've known for decades," tweeted Modi on Saturday . "His insight into questions and his differentiated understanding of things had very few parallels."


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